1 Peter 4:7-13
Today in his first letter, St. Peter encourages his brothers and sisters to live in the Lord, for the time is soon coming when they shall meet Him face to face. "The end of all things is at hand." In my imagination, back with those first Christians listening to Peter, I smile a bit – for my hindsight tells me almost 2000 years have passed awaiting that end time of all things. But then Peter makes a statement that thrusts me right into our own day: "Beloved, do not be surprised that a trial by fire is occurring among you."
"A trial by fire. . . " What flashes before my mind is the cover-up by our hierarchy, from the Vatican on down, of the clerical sexual abuse and defilement of our youth. Meanwhile, in the Vatican, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, whose main job according to Benedict XVI is to clean up this sexual scandal, turns instead upon our American Sisters. The CDF is going to clean up the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. A five-year purge has been imposed upon them. Truly indeed "a trial by fire is occurring among us." Yet Peter cautions us not to be surprised. "Rejoice," he says, "to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ."
My recent experience of the last few months comes into my reflections. I have joined a group of people who are pondering whether they should form a local unit of Call to Action. From their meetings, almost by accident, these people drew me to participate in another sequence of meetings — those of a parish founded intentionally to promote the forward-looking directions of Vatican II. Through these people – single and married, women and men, mothers, fathers, grandparents, Sisters, and priests – I have been enriched with hope. For all the Tuesdays of May they have met on the cathedral steps to show our support for the Sisters. In all the media they have declared the great wonders the Sisters have done for our church and for our country, pioneers opening the west to God and graced humanity. And they recount what the Sisters continue to do as real spiritual ministers and missionaries of the Holy Spirit here and throughout the world. On the steps of the cathedral they stand in silent prayer for the Sisters and the LCWR, that the Holy Spirit sustain and inspire the Sisters in this second trial imposed by the Vatican just as She did in the first trial – and in prayer for the CDF, that the Holy Spirit may open their hearts and their eyes to the truth. I am grateful to be part of this group – grateful to the Holy Spirit and grateful to these committed people. The tremendous hope of our laity has given me hope.
The gospel for the day then speaks to us of Jesus’s cleansing of the Temple. Jesus tells us, "My father’s house is a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves." What would Jesus call it today? The media has given an answer – "a den of corruption," "a den of vice," "a den of snipers." Our laity, filled with anger and courage, the two beautiful daughters of Hope according to St. Augustine, follows the cleansing action of Jesus in quiet public prayer on the cathedral steps across the country. Their silence is eloquent.
Br. Peter A. Fitzpatrick, CFX, a Xaverian Brother, is a Passionist Associate at Ryken House, St. Xavier High School, across the creek from the Passionist Monastery in Louisville, Kentucky.